JM Smucker leverages new marketing model, information services to prove ‘big food’ can innovate

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

JM Smucker leverages new marketing model, information services to prove ‘big food’ can innovate

Related tags JM Smucker Innovation Marketing

The JM Smucker Co. is overhauling the marketing model that helped it build iconic brands like Jif peanut butter, Smucker’s jelly and Folgers coffee in an effort to disprove the emerging notion that ‘big food’ can’t innovate or, in some cases, even navigate the rapidly changing marketplace.

“Big brands are as relevant today as they have ever been. Loyalty towards big brands is as strong as it ever has been. The reality though is that big brands still need to ensure they are delivering world class innovation, world class marketing and they are priced right,”​ according to Geoff Tanner, the company’s senior vice president of growth and consumer engagement.

But to do that, JM Smucker needed to undertake a “wholesale transformation of our marketing model”​ given that “how you market brands today is fundamentally different than it was five, 10 years ago,”​ Tanner explained in the firm’s recently published interactive Fiscal Year 2020 Company Spotlight​.

JM Smucker noted in the Company Spotlight that today’s marketplace is more complex and requires a level of agility not normally associated with large companies, but which JM Smucker Co. created by collapsing internal teams and external agencies into three multi-disciplined teams that support each of its key businesses. The new model also “places the omni-channel shopper at the center of everything we do, and enables us to move at the speed of culture.”

One of the biggest challenges and changes JM Smucker tackles in its new model, which it calls the Power of One, has been engaging with consumers across an increasingly fractured marketing landscape in which the competition for their attention has multiplied.

“Consumers increasingly have a choice as to whether they want to engage with our creative,”​ and more than before “we need to earn their attention. We need consumes to feel something for our brands. To have an emotional connection to our brands,”​ Tanner said.

He explained that JM Smucker has achieved this by signing on publicists, and creating bold creative that directly connects to culture.

Bringing innovation

“Another critical element of building brands consumers is love is bringing to market new products to meet changing consumer needs and tastes,”​ the company adds in the Spotlight.

JM Smucker has done this by leveraging design thinking, rapid prototyping and a design-led approach that led to the recent launches of 1850 coffee and Jif Power Ups, the success of which “has inspired a robust product pipeline that we are excited to bring to the market in fiscal 2020 and beyond,”​ the company notes.

In addition, JM Smucker is meeting consumer demand for “convenient, on-the-go, no-prep, no-mess”​ options such as through its Uncrustables and expanded distribution that gives the consumers more options for finding the company’s products, Amy Held, the company’s vice president for international and mergers & acquisitions, said in a video released with the Spotlight.

“Our teams are so far forward now versus where we were years ago in coming up with bigger platforms. The team has done an amazing job on pushing out, with Jif for example, and getting it outside our traditional category,”​ she said.

Tina Floyd, senior VP and general manager, added that another aspect of overhauling the company’s approach to marketing and innovation has been engaging with the startup community.

“We have taken some new and exciting steps to really engage differently with that model – recognizing there are some unique insights that they bring and their agility to move quickly. So, how can we partner with some of those startups, the venture capitalists and bring some of that thinking into Smucker,”​ she said.

Incorporating information services across segments

A key element of building both new products and new marketing has been tapping into insights and data provided by the company’s information services group.

“If you go back 10-15 years, then you wouldn’t see an IS professional attending a business review or sitting at a pricing meeting, but in some respects because of how we see data grow in terms of volume and importance, it has become even more critical that we have these experts sit alongside our very talented teams in sales and marketing and insights and be another resource for them,”​ Bryan Hutson, VP of information services, said in the company’s Spotlight.

“The challenge for our company as we move forward is we are creating so much data is how do we find the insights in that set of data,”​ he said. The answer is “we use techniques where we start more with the picture. What is that picture in mind and what story do we want that data to tell? What insight do we want to be readily available?”

Through the 2020 Spotlight it is clear that the leadership at JM Smucker is excited for the future and looking for new approaches to innovation and consumer engagement that will help them behave more like a startup and shed the reputation that ‘big food’ is cultivating as too big to succeed.

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